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Can The Left Defeat Eric Adams? Part I - Contextualizing the 2021 Mayoral Race
The key to 2025 is understanding 2021.
One does not have to listen particularly hard to hear the rumblings.
The fact that Eric Adams, the Democratic Mayor of New York City, will not face voters for another twenty-one months – in the Democratic Primary scheduled for late June of 2025 – has done little to quell speculation of his potential vulnerability.
It has been a difficult few months for Adams: his former Department of Buildings Commissioner was recently indicted, a straw-donor scandal has rocked his campaign, and the influx of migrants, an issue the Mayor himself said “would destroy the city”, has not abated – further straining the Adams’ relationships with federal officials.
Already, a few ambitious politicos are sending trial-balloons into the air – like Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, State Senator Jessica Ramos, and former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn – in an effort to float their prospective candidacies.
If Adams continues to stumble in the months ahead, the groundswell to move on from him in the coming Democratic Primary, already bubbling beneath the surface, will break out into the open.
Progressives, still haunted by the specter of their shortcomings during the 2021 campaign, are operating with urgency.
At this point, the challenger question is one of when and whom – not if.
However, the critical first step to successfully navigating the 2025 Primary is understanding the 2021 Primary – and reckoning with why Eric Adams is currently Mayor.
The results from that race, notably the vote split between Adams, Maya Wiley, Kathryn Garcia, and Andrew Yang – is, unequivocally, the most useful electoral data point in assessing the state of New York City’s electorate. From a macro-perspective, the dynamics of the previous campaign can help us gauge what will actually matter in two years.
Today, it is important to remember that, almost two years out from the last Democratic Primary for New York City Mayor – the tentative field of candidates was Comptroller Scott Stringer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr.
Of those four – half did not even end up running (Diaz Jr. and Corey Johnson) – while the third, Scott Stringer, won only five percent of the vote.
Certainly, at this point in the previous cycle, few in and around New York City politics had heard of Andrew Yang – much less expected him to enter the Mayoral race as the early frontrunner.
But, at least one thing was quite clear, Eric Adams had been plotting a run for Mayor since his days as a police officer.
Born in Brownsville to parents who moved from Alabama to New York in search of a better life, raised in a Bushwick tenement until his mother could afford a downpayment on a modest home in South Jamaica, Adams’ ascension — from police captain to Borough Hall — was in many respects, representative of Black Brooklyn.
As politics in New York City, particularly in Brooklyn’s gentrifying neighborhoods, trended to the left, Adams remained steadfast that the city’s working-class preferred a more moderate approach — the approach he would bring to City Hall. While reform clubs, flush with progressives from Williamsburg, Park Slope, and Fort Greene, sought out to wrestle power from the Brooklyn Democratic Party, Adams remained a steadfast ally of the county organization - for which his loyalty was rewarded, handsomely.
Adams’ arc, and its context within his borough’s socioeconomic changes, is best contrasted with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, another fixture of Central Brooklyn politics over the past two decades. Jeffries made his name by challenging Brooklyn’s Black establishment, namely back-to-back (unsuccessful) runs against Assembly Member Roger Greene - whereas Adams played the insider’s game by currying favor with the County Party, who hand-picked him to be a State Senator and Borough President. Despite his present day posturing, an upstart Jeffries pinned many of his hopes during his initial campaigns on winning the votes of young urban professionals, “brownstoners” and liberal reformers in the gentrifying neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Prospect Heights. Running for Congress in 2012, he elicited comparisons to Barack Obama for electorally uniting “white and black, rich and poor, the gentrifiers and the gentrified.” Eric Adams, who “reveled in eschewing the snobbishness exuded by the Black elite,” was certainly never praised by The New York Times as a racial unifier – infamously telling “new arrivals” to “Go back to Iowa” Unlike Jeffries, Adams base is, and always was, the county party’s base - African Americans and Afro-Carribeans, from homeowners in Canarsie and Flatlands, to tenants in East Flatbush and East New York.
Despite attempting to build an electoral coalition that was, in many respects, the polar opposite of the aforementioned Brooklyn Borough President, Comptroller Scott Stringer nonetheless shared Eric Adams’ longstanding ties to municipal government. From an early age, Stringer was a natural fit in a hyper-political household - his mother, Arlene Cuevas-Stringer, was an influential Uptown District Leader and City Council Member (and cousin of Bella Abzug); his father, Ronald Stringer, was Mayor Abe Beame’s counsel; his step-father, Carlos Cuevas, was Deputy Borough President of the Bronx. From an early age – Stringer was named to the community planning board at sixteen – he lived up to his family reputation. While a native of Washington Heights, Stringer established his political home on the Upper West Side – first as a legislative aide to Jerry Nadler, before succeeding his mentor in the State Assembly (via the county committee).
Stringer successfully rose atop the crowded heap of ambitious Manhattan politicos, weathering a difficult defeat in the 2001 Public Advocate’s race by winning a competitive contest for Manhattan Borough President four years later, aided by an endorsement from The New York Times. Upon John Liu’s ill-fated bid for City Hall, Stringer seized his opportunity to nab citywide elected office, and better position himself for an eventual campaign for Mayor. The race for Comptroller appeared to be a foregone conclusion, given Stringer had locked up every major endorsement and dissuaded any prominent rivals from declaring – until Elliot Spitzer, years removed from a sex scandal which triggered his abrupt resignation from the Governorship, flush with fortune and an appetite for a political comeback, entered the race at the eleventh hour. Blindsided, and suddenly behind in the polls, Stringer showed considerable fight — going on the offensive and successfully clawing his way back, ultimately defeating Spitzer.
While Stringer prevailed (once again, with a key endorsement from “The Gray Lady”), the race well-encapsulated his strengths and weaknesses as a candidate. He retained significant cachet with affluent liberals across Manhattan, particularly on the Upper West Side and across Brooklyn’s East River waterfront - while holding his own with Middle-class Jews in neighborhoods like Riverdale and Forest Hills. Despite Spitzer consistently beating Stringer by 2-to-1 margins in Black and Latino neighborhoods throughout the outer boroughs, the Manhattan Borough President prevailed because of greater voter turnout amongst his civically-engaged base — had Stringer faced a Black Democrat (as would be the case with Eric Adams in 2021) with durable support throughout working class communities in Central Brooklyn, Southeast Queens, and the Northeast Bronx per say, his endeavor would have been significantly more difficult.
To this day, Stringer may regret his decision not to primary challenge Bill de Blasio in 2017, a phenomena relatable to many Democrats currently on the sidelines ahead of the 2025 Democratic Primary. Regardless, the Comptroller opted to wait for the impending open primary.
Of the plethora of sitting New York City electeds, Stringer was one of the first to correctly diagnose the changing of political winds during that fateful summer of 2018 (Mike Gianaris also comes to mind), amidst the frenzied atmosphere following Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s groundbreaking upset of Rep. Joe Crowley. A relatively standard liberal Democrat for the duration of his career, Stringer began aggressively courting the ascendant progressive vote — gambling his political capital by endorsing IDC challengers (like Alessandra Biaggi and Jessica Ramos), backing Tiffany Cabán against the infamous Queens machine, and supporting Jamaal Bowman’s bid to dethrone Congressman Eliot Engel. These maneuvers paid off handsomely, as at the launch of Stringer’s Mayoral campaign, he was flanked by both Biaggi and Ramos, in addition to Julia Salazar and Yuh-Line Niou — progressive validators who would signal to voters that Scott Stringer was the left candidate.
Unsurprisingly, the Working Families Party, long New York City’s progressive standard-bearer, later endorsed Stringer with their #1 ranking - a move which underscored both the Comptroller’s perceived viability and his own political savvy. The strength of Stringer’s networks across left-leaning institutions, which helped him secure several key endorsements early in the race, gave him a decided advantage over the likes of Maya Wiley and Dianne Morales throughout the “invisible primary” of behind-the-scenes brokering.
By taking this road, Stringer was hoping to fuse progressives (and, to some extent, socialists) with his liberal base — a compelling path to victory in the ranked choice voting era. Even if he was not exclusively the first choice of those who frequented DSA chapter meetings in North Brooklyn, organized Democratic reform clubs in Western Queens, or served on a Manhattan Community Board — Stringer’s path to victory rested on the notion that he would be ranked higher than Andrew Yang or Eric Adams on the vast majority of ballots in vote-rich precincts, and thus would overcome his disadvantages with the city’s working class.
On Paper, this prospective coalition looked formidable.
In Reality, it was not without significant tension.
Despite coming out of the gate with an impressive roster of endorsements, Stringer was nonetheless met with frustration - on both the left, and the right.
Many progressives, particularly those whose political consciousness was activated and inspired by anti-establishment sentiments of Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, remained unenthusiastic and skeptical of Stringer, oft-described by the media as a “career politician.” Furthermore, after happily accepting donations from real estate developers for decades, even attending the annual REBNY gala, Stringer swore off taking contributions from the industry amidst the progressive wave of 2018 - messaging against “greedy, opportunistic landlords ” in public, while attempting to assuage the concerns of said developers in private, saying “let me get through the primary.”
Columnist Ross Barkan offered this critique of Stringer’s progressive bona fides: “[He] criticized the city’s move to decriminalize public urination, cheered on the invasion of Uber, and was muddled enough about Eric Garner’s chokehold killing that he could publish an ‘all lives matter’ statement one year after it happened. Stringer supported Governor Andrew Cuomo in both 2014 and 2018.”
To some, Stringer’s ideological migration felt more opportunistic than organic.
Even on issues where Stringer took an avowedly “progressive” position, he was outflanked by many of his contemporaries, which in turn, inhibited his momentum. The NYPD budget for example – for decades subject to cursory approval by the City Council and the Mayor — had exploded into a hot-button issue on the campaign trail, following the summer of “defund” less than one year prior. On the surface, Stringer’s call for a $1Billion cut seemed strong, and in-line with activist demands from the previous budgeting cycle — yet, when compared to Wiley’s similar figure, coupled with her status as a renowned civil-rights lawyer, and Morales’ assertion that she would slice the police budget in half — and suddenly, Stringer’s position did little to distinguish himself.
Increasingly, the vacuum to Stringer’s left was filled with the gradient of Dianne Morales.
While Morales, the former CEO of Phipps Neighborhoods (the social services arm of Phipps Houses, a nonprofit [and somewhat controversial] real estate developer based in the Bronx), lacked the institutional ties of Stringer or the media profile of Wiley - she countered with strong and consistent messaging, which distinguished her from her progressive peers. While Morales was not a socialist (let alone a Bernie Sanders supporter) her campaign was built on the bedrock of like-minded voters, who valued that she assertively existed to the left of Stringer and Wiley. Concerns of Morales’ lack of involvement in landmark local progressive fights predating her Mayoral campaign, or role in a bribery scandal that ultimately cost her a job in Bill de Blasio’s administration, did little to undermine her support. A longshot nonetheless, Morales had successfully captured a degree of the grassroots energy that Stringer and Wiley coveted, but had thus far struggled to attain.
Although Morales’ ascension highlighted the shortcomings of Stringer’s appeal to progressives, the campaign of Andrew Yang presented greater headaches — as the former Presidential Candidate gobbling up earned media while denting the ex-Manhattan Borough President’s poll numbers with his base of college-educated, upper-middle class whites.
If Andrew Yang eventually faded - as the Stringer campaign resolutely believed - they were confident that their candidate would be primed to peak and capture the Democratic nomination.
A former test prep executive with a Columbia law degree, Andrew Yang parlayed an impressive, longshot campaign for President in which he defied expectations — outlasting countless premier Senators like Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and (New York’s own) Kirsten Gillibrand — into a national grassroots donor base, solid name recognition, and a reputation for championing pseudo left-populist ideas – most notably, universal basic income — and attempting to bring them into the political mainstream.
Despite his Presidential run, Yang was, as far as the world of New York City politics was concerned, a relatively blank slate — from his relationship with organized labor and the press corps, to the many competing factions of the city’s electorate.
To his supporters, Yang was a departure from the status quo of municipal politics, someone who would not be beholden to the whims of labor unions, progressive non-profits, or power brokers — with a fusion of policies across different ideological markers, ranging from implementing a public bank and decriminalizing sex work (progressive) to revitalize SRO’s and ending mandatory parking miniums (YIMBY) to putting more cops on the subway (an Eric Adams talking point) and building a casino on Governors Island (dubious, tied to special interests).
Nonetheless, Yang’s momentum was viewed skeptically from the outset by the city’s liberal establishment, while evoking sheer disdain from its burgeoning progressive movement. Detractors were quick to highlight social media gaffes, from the age-old debate of what is a bodega (or a deli) to whether one can take the A train to the Bronx (if you transfer to the 1 train at 168th street), to underscore the notion that Yang’s commitment to New York City was fickle — a sentiment reinforced by the fact that he spent the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in New Paltz and seldom participated in local elections. Furthermore, his public comments did little to dispel concerns about the candidate’s naivete with respect to governing city issues — Yang touted how his relationship with Chris Cuomo would help him wrestle control of New York City’s subway away from Chris’ brother (Governor Andrew Cuomo), refused to rule out a Presidential bid in 2024, and proclaimed (repeatedly) that he would happily turn over the car keys of his Mayoral administration to Kathryn Garcia.
For a while, none of this mattered. While other candidates focused on candidate forums on Zoom, declining to hold many outdoor press events (at the time, Covid-19 vaccines were not available en masse), Yang frequently held events, neighborhood walks, and made public appearances — all while attracting the lionshare of press attention. His energy and message, centered on New York’s pandemic recovery, was received warmly during those cold months of late Winter — as he enjoyed an early polling lead.
A school of thought slowly emerged: while nearly every early Mayoral frontrunner eventually dropped off, succumbing to the intensity of scrutiny of press and opponents alike — what if Yang proved to be the exception, and he led the polls wire-to-wire?
What if his “Happy Warrior” persona perfectly fit the political moment?
Except, Andrew Yang was no Alfred E. Smith.
A first-term Assembly Member representing Manhattan’s heavily-Irish Fourth Ward, Al Smith, educated in the grit and grime of the Fulton Fish Market, arrived in Albany and quickly realized he was woefully unprepared. Discouraged but undeterred, Smith dedicated himself to studying from the legislative library, slowly amassing a knowledge of government and bill drafting that became unrivaled in the state capital (only matched by his confidante, an ambitious young reformer who went on to be Smith’s Long Island Parks Commissioner). Later in life, bitterly relegated from the public service he loved dearly, Smith advised that same confidante, now at the peak of his powers, that the press was “a slender reed to lean on.”
Smith’s warning was prescient — the press, if not managed correctly, could significantly diminish a campaign. The views of journalists and reporters, while not representative of the entirety of New York City’s mosaic, were (largely) reflective of those with similar educational backgrounds and class composition. The unquestioned frontrunner for several months, Yang was oftentimes the lone subject of this depth of audit.
Yang’s association with consultant Bradley Tusk, a former Bloomberg campaign manager and political adviser to Uber, became the subject of intense inquiry. The firm’s more-conservative orientation (past Tusk clients include the PBA and pro-charter school groups) and lobbying arm (and thus, potential influence in a Yang administration) worried good-government liberals and progressives alike, who feared that Yang, whom Tusk once deemed “an empty vessel,” would be a “vehicle of the neoliberal elite” in City Hall.
Fittingly, Barkan dubbed Yang, “Bloomberg Without Money,” an apt comparison in many respects. Crucially, Bloomberg appeared more prepared, and projected a managerial competence that Yang could not match — a shortcoming the press highlighted to great effect. Bloomberg’s wealth presented him with a unique advantage: he could buy what he lacked, be they connections or consultants. His wealth was the source of his power — few wanted to be on the other end of his spending — in turn brining many to his side, while subduing those too stubborn to sell-out. Yang had no such instrument to wield his influence. Not only that, Bloomberg also benefited considerably from running in November’s general election, where the Republican could rely on the full-throated support of the city’s GOP voters, a much larger contingent at the turn of the millennium.
However, employing a similar electoral strategy, two decades since the first of Bloomberg’s three terms, in a Democratic Primary no less, would, in a city as diverse as ever with respect to race, ethnicity, class and ideology, present a coalition problem - which in turn, would become a votes problem.
Andrew Yang’s core support – a majority of the Asian vote, super-majority of Hasidic Jews, and relative success with ethnic whites in the far reaches of Eastern Queens and Staten Island – on its own, was simply nowhere near enough votes needed to win Primary. To come out on top, Yang would have to broaden his prospective coalition, and make sincere overtures to liberals and progressives — coasting off name recognition alone would last only so long.
Yet, to curry the favor of local power brokers, Yang was forced to stake out right-leaning positions, particularly with respect to Israel and policing, that would inevitably engender hostility from progressives — who already wearily eyed his campaign. It is certainly possible (even likely) that Yang’s campaign — given their ties to Tusk, the candidates’ embrace of public-private partnerships, and the already crowded left lane — essentially wrote off progressive voters, opting to focus on the more moderate elements of the electorate.
As such, the campaign leapt at the opportunity to bank ten-thousand votes from Hasidic communities in South Williamsburg, Crown Heights, and Borough Park through endorsements from dozens of influential rabbis, eager to deal a blow to Eric Adams in the process. Inherently, a Mayoral race is a vote-getting operation — and it is possible that Tusk, presented with the chance to lockdown a five-figure bloc months before Primary Day, simply took the chance and did not look back. Yet, it is quite clear that those votes indirectly came with a cost, one far greater than any benefit bestowed at the ballot box.
“In a nod to the reality that this is the very conservative coalition he has firmly aligned himself with,” Yang’s tweet, on the eve an Israeli missile strike that killed six Palestinian children, was (predictably) pilloried — leading to the Astoria Welfare Society disinviting the Mayoral frontrunner from their pre-Eid grocery distribution event. Yang’s defenders — Ted Cruz, Donald Trump Jr, Stephen Miller, Dov Hikind – provided further fodder to his detractors.
Yet, in an inflection point that fundamentally shifted the race, the most devastating blow came from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
While Andrew Yang had already taken criticism from the left, the well-timed rebuke from Ocasio-Cortez, akin to a sledgehammer of progressive public opinion, ignited a feeding frenzy – leaving the hapless frontrunner engulfed by the backlash.
One tweet doomed Andrew Yang with New York City’s fastest growing voting bloc.
Rejected by New York’s progressives, Yang turned to the college-educated and civically-engaged — from Boerum Hill’s brownstones to Yorkville’s walk-ups to Spuyten Duyvil’s co-ops — many of whom had thrice supported Michael Bloomberg, the man whose campaign, in many respects, he was attempting to emulate.
Once defined by good government groups and reform clubs, the epicenter of liberal political power in New York, has increasingly become vested in the city’s left-leaning press — a press that had rigorously covered Andrew Yang for months, and whose skepticism remained unabated. As time wore on, what once appeared to be harmless gaffes soon became a harbinger of the frontrunner’s inexperience — fueling the trickle of trepidation seeping into voters' consciousness. Strong name recognition was displaced by stronger reservations about the candidate — as the floor collapsed on Andrew Yang’s mayoral campaign. This failure was borne out when reviewing Yang’s performance in neighborhoods like the Upper West Side, Greenwich Village, Park Slope, and Prospect Heights — the highest turnout districts in the five boroughs — was relegated to measly percentages, even eclipsed by Eric Adams.
Ultimately, Yang’s last ditch pivot to a crime-focused message, coming on the heels of his declining poll numbers, lacked salience or effect — as it gave further ammunition to progressives who equated him to (or believed he was “worse” than) Adams, failed to make headway with the well-educated professional class, and stood little chance with Blacks and Latinos in working and middle-class neighborhoods — many of whom valued Eric Adams lived experiences, ties to their respective communities, and consistency on the issue.
While Adams similarly lacked cachet with the liberal media, he was nonetheless buttressed by a stronger working-middle class coalition — a voter base less beholden to the whims of the New York Times Editorial Board and other adjacent institutions than that of his opponents.
The declining fortunes of Andrew Yang coincided with another significant development that shuffled the campaign’s landscape, where the candidate seemingly destined to fill the newfound polling vacuum and emerge as the preeminent competitor to Eric Adams — one capable of upholding the mantles of liberalism, technocracy, good-government, and progressivism — swiftly crashed and burned.
In late April, Scott Stringer was accused of sexual assault and harassment by Jean Kim, with the alleged incidents taking place during Stringer’s campaign for Public Advocate in 2001. While acknowledging he and Kim were in a brief relationship at the time, Stringer swiftly denied the allegations. In the immediate aftermath, the Stringer campaign sought to publicly discredit Kim — an effort that, while unearthing some discrepancies in Kim’s story, ultimately reflected poorly on the campaign (particularly the accusation that Kim’s role in carrying petitions for Esther Yang, a candidate for District Leader in Manhattan, somehow constituted a sinister, coordinated link to Stringer’s rival, Andrew Yang).
Promptly, the majority of Stringer’s marquee backers rescinded their endorsements. Many progressive state legislators, undoubtedly concerned about the optics of remaining behind Stringer while simultaneously calling for the resignation of Governor Andrew Cuomo (himself accused countless times of sexual harassment), revoked their support from the Comptroller. Within the ensuing 48 hours after news of the allegation broke, Stringer lost the heart of his progressive coalition, as Jamaal Bowman, Jessica Ramos, Alessandra Biaggi, Julia Salazar, Gustavo Rivera, Yuh-Line Niou and the Working Families Party all withdrew their support — in addition to bleeding his diverse network across Upper Manhattan, losing Rep. Adriano Espaillat, City Council Member (and future Manhattan Borough President) Mark Levine, and State Senator Robert Jackson.
Among the dozens of movers and shakers that Scott Stringer once counted in his corner, Congressman Jerry Nadler, his mentor, and the United Federation of Teachers, who had failed to back a winning candidate for Mayor since 1989, were all that remained. An endorsement from The New York Times, a reliable source of strength throughout Stringer’s political career, would not be forthcoming.
With Stringer’s demise, the chance of the liberal-left coalition uniting behind a single candidate fell apart at the seams — as technocratic-focused, affluent liberals jettisoned to the surging Kathryn Garcia, while their more diverse, ideologically-inclined progressive counterparts flocked to Maya Wiley.
In many respects, Kathryn Garcia’s campaign — from her governing philosophy to the electoral coalition which buoyed her rise in the polls — bore a close resemblance to both Michael Bloomberg and Ed Koch, fittingly the two Mayor’s whom she praised most frequently. While Andrew Yang struggled to endear himself to this segment of the electorate, not only did Garcia boast strong managerial credentials, more importantly, she projected said acumen and competence.
An ex-Sanitation Commissioner and New York City’s “Food Czar” during the height of the pandemic, Garcia’s neo-liberal campaign was nonetheless mired in the low-single digits until May. However, the tide turned within the confines of 242 West 41st - the headquarters of The New York Times – as Garcia proved herself to an Editorial Board who, armed with overwhelming influence among New York City’s civically-engaged, would ultimately bestow her the most valuable endorsement in the race for City Hall.
Praised as “the most qualified” candidate, with a “zeal for making government work better,” who “best understands how to get New York back on its feet and has the temperament and the experience to do so” – the raw political power of a New York Times endorsement was evidenced by Garcia’s ensuing rise into the upper-echelon of contenders.
While Scott Stringer cratered, and Andrew Yang slipped — Garcia saw her name recognition increase exponentially overnight, which helped her qualify for matching funds and climb in the polls. Bereft of a traditional political background, Garcia used her public-sector credentials as an advantage – appealing to voters from Brooklyn Heights, Tribeca, and Riverdale with an avowed commitment to stable, dynamic government and non-partisan management. Her worldview with respect to governing New York City did not invoke the language of systemic change, rather, it centered on the themes of reforming the status quo, rooting out inefficiency, and prioritizing competency over ideology.
Many had once found solace in the campaign of Dianne Morales, but soon found their ideals betrayed by a union-busting scandal that engulfed her staff in late May, dooming the Cinderella campaign to a disappointing finish.
The Stringer campaign, still reeling from the April accusation, was not dead (yet) as the team “remained in talks with some former endorsers to return, as well as with the progressive movement’s biggest star, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez” (per Ben Smith’s reporting in The New York Times). Regardless, the campaign’s faint hopes of an impromptu comeback were immediately dashed when Stringer was accused of past sexual harassment for a second time in early June.
The following day, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Maya Wiley, urging progressives that, “if we don’t come together as a movement, we will get a New York City built by and for billionaires.” Now, there would be little drama as to which candidate would consolidate Astoria and Long Island City, Greenpoint and Williamsburg, Bushwick and Ridgewood.
News of the second Stringer allegation, the theme of the left “coalescing” in Ocasio-Cortez’s speech, coupled with the fact that Wiley herself received “almost no advance notice” of the impending endorsement – are details which indicate that AOC's intervention on behalf of Wiley, one week before early voting, was up until the last-minute, not a foregone conclusion.
Once again, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had asserted her political power - first by pillorying Andrew Yang, then elevating Maya Wiley. However, in contrast to the fourteen-member panel which makes up the New York Times Editorial Board, Ocasio-Cortez did not derive her influence and political power from an institution - rather, she was accountable to a movement, comprised of an amalgamation of left-leaning New Yorkers who trusted her voice. Some might sneer at the previous declaration, but it bears repeating - no figure in New York City, let alone any politician, has the capacity, solely based on their word, to move votes like Ocasio-Cortez. Such a relationship between an official and any segment of the electorate is rare, especially in New York City, where political power is traditionally defined by the strength of one’s relationship to the power brokers, rather than the voters themselves.
“We’ve already tried Giuliani’s New York. We’ve also tried Bloomberg’s New York. And what that got us was a New York that was harder to afford and a New York that criminalized young people and put them into lifelong carceral cycles. It ends now.”
Despite an impressive roster of marquee endorsements – Rep. Nydia Velazquez, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, Rep. Yvette Clarke, and State Senator Mike Gianaris – Wiley, an MSNBC legal analyst and ex-counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, had thus far struggled to gain traction for the majority of the race, relegated to the high, single-digits in most polls. While a compelling candidate in a ranked-choice voting primary, it often felt as though, from a coalition standpoint, Wiley was boxed-in. Among progressives, she lacked Scott Stringer’s ties to the institutional left, yet failed to generate comparable grassroots energy to Dianne Morales — underscored by the fact that The Working Families Party initially ranked her third. The New York Times, troubled by Wiley’s coining of the term “agents of the city” to shield Bill de Blasio’s communication with lobbyists from public disclosure, passed her over – ensuring the majority of affluent liberals opted for Kathryn Garcia.
While the ingredients for a late-surge were there, Wiley benefited tremendously from the implosion of both Stringer and Morales, as her endorsement from Ocasio-Cortez acted as the de-facto consolidation of the progressive vote heading into the campaign’s homestretch.
Unlike her competitors (Yang, Garcia, Stringer) - who struggled mightily with Black voters of all classes – Wiley had the juice to compete (and even win) gentrifying neighborhoods like Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Crown Heights against Eric Adams. Wiley married her pronounced strength among young, leftist renters and affluent, progressive “brownstoner” families with modest support from upper-middle class Black homeowners. Even among these blocks, the coalition contrast between the two was evident, with Wiley performing best in the landmarked historic districts – winning the rowhouses of Clinton Hill, townhouses lining Strivers Row, and single-family homes sprinkled throughout Prospect Lefferts-Garden – while Adams remained the unquestioned choice of the income-restricted cooperatives along the Harlem River, rent-stabilized tenants in Ebbets Field Apartments, and two-family homes of Ocean Hill.
This dichotomy between Wiley and Adams was well-encapsulated by their messaging with respect to public safety, which had quickly become the most salient issue on the campaign trail. While the renowned civil rights attorney harkened back to the protests of the previous summer, warning of the social consequences posed by over policing Black and Latino youth, the Brooklyn Borough President, emboldened by a recent uptick in crime that perched him atop the polls, pledged to add more police officers to the subway platforms. On this issue, Adams remained confident that he best understood the pulse, not only of homeowners in Canarsie, Wakefield and Southeast Queens – but of the working class, Black and Latino, from East Flatbush to Mott Haven.
For decades, Black politicians in Urban America, from Harold Washington to David Dinkins, had been elected off the strength of multi-racial “Rainbow” coalitions - namely, by combining the support of white progressives and racial minorities to defeat conservative, political machines. The early career struggles (losing to Black incumbents in deep-working class districts, facing criticism for their elite backgrounds), and eventual ascendance (building a multiracial coalition with Blacks and Whites) of both Barack Obama and Hakeem Jeffries fit this mold as well. In many respects, Maya Wiley was attempting to thread a similar path to victory.
Eric Adams, distinctly, was not.
For much of the campaign, Eric Adams — despite consistently polling in second place — had skirted the bevy of media coverage that traditionally accompanies a front-running candidate. The Andrew Yang phenomena, Scott Stringer implosion, and the surprise, late surges of both Kathryn Garcia and Maya Wiley (plus the accompanying press that their signature endorsees demand) had, collectively, sucked up a lot of the race’s oxygen. Press coverage is two-fold between reporters, writers, and journalists and their respective audiences — naturally, people want to read and write about things with which they are familiar. That aforementioned audience, be it for The New York Times, NY1 or The City — skews towards the college-educated, and professional class. Amongst this cohort, Andrew Yang was an ex-Presidential candidate, Maya Wiley served as a frequent guest on MSNBC, the editorial board at the newspaper of record endorsed Kathryn Garcia — whereas the orbit of Eric Adams and his politics — was unfamiliar.
Nonetheless, as the campaign entered the home stretch with Eric Adams as the sole occupant of first place – the scrutiny came. POLITICO reported questions with respect to Adams’ residency – and whether the candidate for Mayor of New York City was actually hanging his hat at his Fort Lee, New Jersey co-op, or merely sleeping in his taxpayer-funded office at Borough Hall. New York Magazine published a blistering profile on “The Company Eric Adams Keeps” that shed further light on his associations with. Suddenly, with scant time remaining, progressives wondered aloud whether their negative energy, for months trained exclusively on Andrew Yang, had been misplaced — and indirectly aided Adams’ maneuvering into a leading position.
Unlike Andrew Yang, who faltered after months of media scrutiny — Eric Adams was insulated by a far more durable coalition — a clear majority amongst Black voters, comfortable plurality of Latinos, supermajority with Orthodox Jews (not the Hasidim), and an amalgamation of crime-weary whites (of all classes and ethnic backgrounds). Not to mention, The New York Post, a tabloid newspaper owned by Rupert Mudroch, had been rabidly supporting Adams for months. A handful of negative stories over the final weeks would do little to diminish his standing.
With ranked choice voting looming, the race offered one final twist. Less than seventy-two hours before polls opened on Primary Day (Early Voting had already been underway for a week), Andrew Yang, in a nod to the reality of his impending defeat, endorsed Kathryn Garcia as his #2 choice at a rally in Flushing, Queens – an effort to aid Garcia in the latter rounds of Ranked Choice Voting (his ranking was not reciprocated). Predictably, Adams and his surrogates lambasted the announcement as an attempt to disenfranchise Black voters.
Editor’s Note: It should not be forgotten that following this development, Jumaane Williams released a statement saying “Until this morning, I gave serious consideration to the Kathryn Garcia campaign. Unfortunately, their apparent recent cooperation with the Yang campaign clarified my final decision. At this point, I’m singularly most concerned about Andrew Yang for Mayor.” For context, Yang was clearly polling in fourth at the time - his odds of victory were all but nil. Williams, after pledging his #1 ranking to Wiley, left his ballot order “private” but also ranked: Eric Adams, Shaun Donovan, Ray McGuire, and Scott Stringer.
When the first round of returns settled in on Primary Night, Eric Adams held a non-insurmountable, but nonetheless clear lead, with 30.72% of the vote. Maya Wiley’s progressive coalition had (for now) edged Kathryn Garcia’s liberal-technocracy – 21.3% vs. 19.5%. Andrew Yang, his support reduced to that of Asians, Hasidic Jews and an assortment of white ethnics, finished a distant fourth, with 12.2%. Scott Stringer, once the hope of the liberal-left, stumbled to 5.5%, marking an unceremonious end to his tenure in city government.
Two weeks later, on July 6th, Eric Adams’ victory was solidified after eight rounds of ranked choice voting, having defeated Garcia in the final round – 404,439 votes (50.45%) to 397,241 votes (49.55%) – a winning margin of just 7,198 votes.
Yet, these tallies - the preliminary count, and the final result - obscure much of the nuance that permeated in between the lines. How and why did Eric Adams win? Which factors, ultimately, made the difference between victory and defeat for Kathryn Garcia or Maya Wiley? What do the performances of each leading candidate – Adams, Wiley, Garcia, Yang — tell us about New York City?
These voting patterns, described in detail above, changed little throughout the first six rounds of ranked choice voting — as Write-In ballots, followed by the candidates in order of lowest percentage, were sequentially eliminated.
Soon, all but four remained – Eric Adams (34.6%), Maya Wiley (26.1%), Kathryn Garcia (24.4%), and Andrew Yang (14.8%). Adams’ – the wire-to-wire leader – still remained a healthy distance ahead of both Wiley and Garcia, who had gained marginal ground on the frontrunner (approximately 1%) upon the eliminations of Stringer and Morales – further separating themselves from Yang, who idled almost ten points behind.
Through six rounds of ranked choice, the progressive coalition, having haphazardly rallied around Maya Wiley following a turbulent primary season, was nonetheless outperforming their liberal counterparts, led by the late-rise of Kathryn Garcia. When united, liberals and leftists had helped reshape the landscape of New York politics — now, the two factions were amidst a struggle for whom would advance to the final round against Eric Adams.
Of those who habitually came to the polls every summer and fall, and cast their ballots en masse, Garcia was the clear choice. While voter turnout in progressive quarters could not single-handedly match the reservoir of vote-rich precincts in Garcia’s strongholds, Wiley’s candidacy — be it for ideological reasons, messaging, field outreach, endorsers, or simply just vibes — had far greater resonance amongst working and middle class Blacks and Latinos, which had thus far provided her edge.
Case and point, Wiley outperformed Garcia in every single Assembly District that was either plurality or majority Black or Latino — by my count, twenty-eight districts in total. With Black voters — from homeowners in Wakefield and Southeast Queens to working class renters in East Flatbush and Brownsville — Wiley bested Garcia by an average margin of 4-to-1 — while edging her approximately 2-to-1 amongst Latinos, be they Puerto Ricans in Soundview or Dominicans in University Heights.
Between the supporters of Maya Wiley and Garcia, a class (and thus, age) distinction — while subtle — was evident. Voters who could stroll from their apartments and find the comfort of Sheep’s Meadow or the Great Lawn, largely backed Garcia, while those who frequented the parks bearing the names of Herbert Von King, Maria Hernandez, and Patrick McCarren opted for Wiley.
Along Brooklyn’s Third and Fourth Avenue, amidst the stench of Superfund emanating from the Gowanus Canal, Wiley was the choice, whereas with each block further up the hill, as Seventh and Eighth Avenue give way to the spectacle of Grand Army Plaza, Garcia’s vote count only increased. In Upper Manhattan, Garcia swept the families of Hudson Heights, a historically-Jewish enclave defined by its elevated topography, whereas south of the George Washington Bridge, Wiley won the hearts and minds of students and young professionals, many of whom were renting tenement apartments bought out by Columbia University (for those keeping score, Eric Adams did quite well east of Broadway, in the sections of Washington Heights that are heavily Dominican, and far less gentrified). Garcia had Stuyvesant Town and Peter-Cooper Village, Wiley had the East Village and Alphabet City.
Yet, the perfect case study may rest with the little sub-neighborhood of South Slope (although sometimes referred to as Greenwood Heights). The *south* delineation is key, for the neighborhood is distanced from the more affluent Park Slope by one of Robert Moses’ infamous trenches, the Prospect Expressway. The neighborhood also borders the Greenwood Cemetery and (of course) another Moses’ work, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway — factors which keep the cost of housing lower than the adjacent enclaves to the north, despite their shared proximity to Prospect Park. In South Slope’s rowhouses, Maya Wiley won every precinct. Across the expressway, amongst the vast brownstones and grand, pre-war doorman buildings on the edge of Olmstead’s creation, Kathryn Garcia did the same.
For six rounds, a movement frequently derided as “online” had won more votes, in the real world, than the choice candidate of the city’s longest-tenured political and cultural institution.
However, Wiley’s small lead over Garcia evaporated upon Yang’s elimination — whose ranked endorsement helped the ex-Sanitation Commissioner tap into the former Presidential candidates’ deep-pockets of support in Southern Brooklyn and Northeast Queens. Essentially, Adams and Garcia split the “Yang vote” in working-class Asian neighborhoods like Manhattan’s Chinatown, Sunset Park, Bensonhurst, Elmhurst, and Flushing — whereas Garcia performed much better among white ethnic homeowners, further consolidating her support in Whitestone, Douglaston, Bayside, and Staten Island’s southern shore.
Hasidic Jews, from South Williamsburg to Borough Park, uniformly ranked Eric Adams above both Garcia and Wiley — often by margins greater than 10-to-1 — adding to the Brooklyn Borough President’s already pronounced advantage with Orthodox Jews. Wiley, left to inherit sparse votes from the Yang coalition, was overtaken by Garcia, who netted over twenty-seven thousand more votes than her progressive rival.
Entering the final round upon the elimination of Wiley (29.1%) – Garcia (30.5%) still trailed Adams (40.5%) by a considerable margin.
The “Maya Wiley vote” — broadly defined by their scrupulous ideological motivations — vastly preferred the neo-liberalism of Kathryn Garcia to the law-and-order of Eric Adams. Of Wiley’s ballots which also ranked either Garcia or Adams, the former won decidedly — by almost 3-to-1 — margins she would need to overtake the latter’s ten-point lead.
On the final ballot, the dissemination of the vote, and it’s split between Eric Adams and Kathryn Garcia, was as close to an encapsulation of New York’s “Tale of Two Cities” — a term first coined in politics by Fernando Ferrer, but later popularized by Bill de Blasio – as one can find in Gotham’s storied history of electoral politics.
This tale, one as old as time in a municipality characterized by its ethnic, racial and class diversity — played out as one would expect.
Of the eight Assembly Districts in New York City with the highest voter turnout — from Morningside Heights to Park Slope — Kathryn Garcia won them all versus Eric Adams – handily – netting her a margin of over one-hundred and twenty thousand votes (from just eight districts). On Central Park West, Court Street, Park Avenue and Riverside Drive – Garcia was dominant. Broadly speaking, achieving a commanding share of the vote in neighborhoods where ballots are cast at the highest rates in all of the city, is traditionally a surefire recipe for success — and ultimately, victory.
This formula had decades of precedent. New York City’s elite enclaves - a confluence of the liberal intelligentsia, professional-managerial class, and upper-crust - once solely confined to Manhattan, but now (due an acute housing shortage, erosion of rent-stabilization, and ensuing hyper-gentrification) spread inland along the East River into Brooklyn and Queens, had been apart of the winning coalition of the Mayor, every four years, without fail, since 1973.
Yet, come 2021, that streak would come to an end.
For generations, Blacks and Latinos had played a crucial role in elevating liberal candidates (like John Lindsay, David Dinkins, and Bill de Blasio) to City Hall, but had struggled to breakthrough in a citywide election without the support of their well-heeled neighbors – see: Percy Sutton (‘77), Fernando Ferrer (‘01,’05), Bill Thompson (‘09).
A coalition built chiefly on the foundation of Black and Latino support had never ascended to City Hall. Until now.
In neighborhoods where working class people of color are the majority — and political participation has historically fluctuated — the campaign of Eric Adams resonated, to great effect – to where the collective strength of New York City’s working class voters could capture the Mayoralty. For those whose paths crossed Linden Boulevard, New Lots Avenue, Fordham Road, and Grand Concourse — Eric Adams was not only the choice, but increasingly, the only choice.
Kathryn Garcia appealed to voters who would soon abscond to Long Island’s East End, the Catskills, or Lake George to flee the July heat — Eric Adams resonated with those who spent their summers at Orchard Beach and Rockaway Park.
The winning coalition of Eric Adams saw middle-class African-American and Afro-Caribbean homeowners in Southeast Queens and the Northeast Bronx (7-to-1), along with working class and low-income Black renters in East New York, Brownsville, and East Flatbush (9-to-1) – electorally unite with Latinos – including the heavily-Dominican West Bronx (3-to-1) and historically-Puerto Rican enclaves of Soundview, Hunts Point, and the South Bronx (3-to-1).
Adams handily won middle-income developments like Co-Op City (5-to-1), Parkchester (4-to-1), Rochdale Village (13-to-1), and Starrett City (10-1). His robust support amongst the working class allowed him to win many gentrifying neighborhoods – like Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Flatbush, and Washington Heights – by healthy margins.
Every NYCHA development in New York City voted for Adams — if one reviews a precinct map of the final results, one will quickly notice blocks of support for Adams at the heart of Garcia’s strongholds; for those are almost always public housing developments. Support for him amongst the city’s working poor was resolute.
For many miles and neighborhoods east of Prospect Park to the Queens-Nassau border, he seldom lost a single precinct. Of the approximately 638 precincts in the Bronx, Adams won roughly 86% of them — a staggering total for an entire borough.
Amongst Borough Park’s Hasidim (10-to-1), the Orthodox of Midwood (6-to-1) and Far Rockaway (8-to-1), South Williamsburg’s Satmar (20-to-1), and the Chabad Lubavitch of Crown Heights (18-to-1) — Eric Adams won, overwhelmingly.
In the end, out of over eight-hundred thousand ballots cast (over 140K were exhausted by the final round), Eric Adams won by only 7,198 votes (0.9% of the vote).
He needed every one.
Given the razor thin margin of victory, I wanted to examine both what would, and could, have altered the outcome.
Objectively what would have changed the outcome:
Garcia wins 1.5% more of the vote in her core ADs
AD65 - FiDi, Chinatown, Lower East Side
AD66 - Greenwich Village, TriBeca
AD67 - Upper West Side, Hells Kitchen
AD69 - Morningside Heights
AD73 - Upper East Side(Park-5th), Midtown East
AD74 - East Village, Gramercy, Stuy-Town/Peter-Cooper Village, Kips Bay, Tudor City
AD75 - Midtown
AD76 - Upper East Side, Yorkville
AD44 - Park Slope, Windsor Terrace
AD52 - Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, BK Heights
AD57 - Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights
In Kathryn Garcia’s eleven core Assembly Districts — a confluence of civic-engagement and affluence stretching from Central to Prospect — she received 74.52% of the vote (to Eric Adams’ 25.48%) – which netted her a total of 123,361 votes. Elections are decided on the margins, with Garcia ultimately losing by a meager 7,198 votes.
But what if she had simply netted that difference from her base? How much would the needle have had to be moved?
If the vote share in the final round of ranked choice voting, among those key Assembly Districts, had shifted to Garcia by one-and-a-half percent, she would have been Mayor.
There is 6% greater voter turnout in Garcia’s core ADs
Naturally, I ran the numbers for voter turnout as well. If the vote share split between Garcia and Adams (74.52% to 24.58%) in those districts held constant, how much would voter turnout have had to increase for Garcia to win?
If voter turnout (a.k.a. non-exhausted ballots) in the final round of ranked choice voting, among those key Assembly Districts, had increased by six percent, Garcia would have been Mayor.
Subjectively what could have changed the outcome:
Maya Wiley and Kathryn Garcia cross-endorsed one another
We already covered how Andrew Yang’s cross-endorsement of Garcia fueled her late surge to second place, but what if Maya Wiley had done the same? Already, Wiley’s voters preferred Garcia by a nearly 3-to-1 margin over Eric Adams, but almost 30% of “Wiley votes” — nearly 75K ballots — were ultimately exhausted, ranking neither Adams or Garcia.
Had an extra 15,000 Wiley voters ranked Garcia or Adams — based on the existing ratios of support between the final two candidates — Garcia would have received enough votes to overtake Adams and capture the Democratic nomination.
If Wiley explicitly issued a ranked endorsement of Garcia, would that have been enough to salvage one-fifth of her exhausted ballots?
Interestingly, Wiley told POLITICO that she, “been invited to campaign with Yang and Garcia, but turned it down due to Yang’s recent comments about mentally ill New Yorkers” — whereas the same story noted, “Both Yang and Garcia’s campaign denied that Wiley had been invited to campaign with the duo Saturday.”
Eventually cross-endorsements between candidates will become the norm.
The Runoff system was still in place
In the post-1969, pre-ranked choice voting era of New York City politics, if no candidate received over 40% of the vote in a citywide primary, the top-two candidates would advance to a “runoff” election two-weeks later. Similar arrangements are common in other municipalities, like Chicago and Los Angeles, and are particularly popular in national elections throughout South America.
Despite almost fifty years of implementation, there were only four Democratic Primaries for Mayor where the top vote-getter failed to clear 40% — in 1973, 1977, and 2001 — and of those three instances, only once did the initial leader lose the runoff — Fernando Ferrer to Mark Green, at the turn of the millennium. Under these conditions, Eric Adams, well below the threshold, and Maya Wiley, edging out Kathryn Garcia, would have advanced.
Twenty years later, could the same fate have beset Eric Adams?
A two-week interlude between Primary Day and the runoff could have given the Wiley camp enough time to shepherd the liberal left behind her candidacy. A unity rally with Kathryn Garcia and a well-received Editorial from The New York Times supporting Wiley in the runoff, coupled with two more weeks of the press, already warmed up, writing unflattering stories about the Adams, all while each losing camp dumps every piece of opposition research into the ether.
A runoff is largely predicated on voter turnout, and if during that two-week span, the collective liberal-left hysteria for Eric Adams matched that previously generated by Andrew Yang — Maya Wiley could have won, forging a different electoral path than the one taken by Kathryn Garcia, one reliant more on tempering down Adams’ working class support whilst still handily defeating him in the vote-rich, civically-engaged precincts which could be reliably called upon to come to the polls two weeks later.
The New York Times endorsed Maya Wiley
Similarly, had The Times just endorsed Wiley from the get-go, the contours of the race would have changed dramatically. Instead of ascending in early June (read: as late as possible), Wiley would have distinguished herself in mid-May — and thus, banked another month of the earned media, donations, and potential endorsers that came her way following AOC’s endorsement. Had this shift taken place, a liberal-left consolidation behind her would have come much sooner — as the Garcia phenomena would have ceased to exist.
The framing of the race over the final month would not have been “Will Progressives and Liberals get their SH*T together to stop Andrew Yang and Eric Adams?” but rather, “Maya Wiley emerges as the progressive standard-bearer backed by a Rainbow Coalition.” Less media bandwidth swallowed up by Stringer, Garcia and Morales would not only have fueled more positive coverage of Wiley, but also led to enhanced scrutiny of Eric Adams – a two-fold benefit.
Even armed with a NYT endorsement, Wiley would have still lacked cachet with white ethnic homeowners, and working-middle class Asians — constituencies which proved helpful to Garcia’s final margins. However, she would have mitigated potential losses there – for those pockets hold relatively few votes in a Democratic Primary – given her consistently better performances with Blacks and Latinos (than Garcia). Instead of losing Black neighborhoods, from working-class Morrisania to middle-class Springfield Gardens, by 6-to-1 like Garcia, Wiley would have cut Adams margin to 3-to-1.
Those ratio shifts in dozens of working class Black and Latino districts across the city, when coupled with Wiley’s progressive foundation and the consolidation of affluent liberals in Manhattan and Brownstone Brooklyn — who take The New York Times as gospel, no matter if they are endorsing Jumaane Williams, Kathy Hochul, or Dan Goldman — would have been too much for Eric Adams to overcome.
Andrew Yang did not run
This has less to do with Andrew Yang personally, and is more a reflection on how his candidacy defined the trajectory of the race for months. Despite looming in second place, Eric Adams received scant scrutiny in comparison to the frontrunner — as he watched how, without fail, progressives channeled their collective fire towards Yang, leaving Adams, with his own plethora of problematic statements and personal baggage, ripe for criticism from the left, largely unscathed until the campaign’s homestretch.
Yang had never held (let alone run for) elected office in New York, his voting record in municipal elections was infrequent, he decamped to Ulster County during the pandemic, nor had he ever toiled as a legislative staffer, worked in a city agency, or been elected District Leader and served on a Community Board. To his rivals, Yang’s resume, bereft of the experience voters would come to expect from a traditional, born-and-bred New York City politician, was disqualifying — his run for Mayor was the ultimate act of hubris, one they took personally.
However, animosity can cloud one’s judgment — not only did Andrew Yang soak up the lionshare of the media’s attention, his opponents focused on him with laser-like intensity — building a perfect storm for Eric Adams to peak at just the right time. Prolonged media exposure, and a lackluster strategy for appealing to liberal voters, tanked Yang’s support amongst the college-educated and affluent — in the two highest turnout Assembly Districts, he received 5.4% and 6.4% of the vote, respectively. While Adams’ floor of support was more baked-in, given his resonance with the city’s working class — had he been subjected to a similar extended inquiry, it is likely he would have bled votes, which could have swung the outcome.
The lack of foresight to clearly challenge Eric Adams, particularly his narrative with respect to rising crime, was a significant failure that, in many respects, New York City’s progressive movement has not entirely recovered from.
The New York City that Eric Adams had always known – a city rooted in organized labor and the political clubhouse, anchored by the working class neighborhoods of the outer boroughs, and where one’s path to power began as a District Leader or Community Board member, and was tied to the whims of the local county organization — had prevailed, albeit narrowly.
Yet, on the horizon — in many respects, embodied by the candidacy of Kathryn Garcia — is the New York that is soon to come. A city decentralized from the traditional pillars of political power — where clubhouses and county organizations cannot move votes like in years past. Local media, consumed online rather than in-print, has partially filled the void — but is nonetheless victim to the financial precarity of the journalism industry, in turn vesting even greater political power into institutions like The New York Times (and on the other side of the coin, The New York Post).
Political ideology, once an afterthought, now shapes the electorate to a degree never before seen in New York City’s modern history. The conventional political ladder can only guarantee so much — insurgency is no longer universally shunned, but in some cases, even encouraged.
We are entering an era of political realignment in New York City — where media savvy, true grassroots support, and the ability to build multi-racial, cross-class coalitions will determine who ascends, and who fails.
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